No one does sad-girl pop like Lana Del Rey.
Her new album Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, released March 24, is a hodgepodge history of sad music and the feelings it evokes in listeners. From lyrics to instrumentals, the album is crafted to chronicle both personal memories and universal feelings associated with the music.
The album opens with “The Grants,” a nostalgic and melancholy first of many tribute songs to artists that have shaped Del Rey. The song begins with a gospel choir prelude, then unfolds layers of emotion between the few repeated lyrics.
“When you leave, all you take / Is your memory / And I’m gonna take mine of you with me,” she sings over and over.
The album is packed full of memories, all strung together by music. She weaves other artists’ powerful words and voices with her own in each song, whether it’s through collaborations with other artists or obscure lyrical references. Del Rey’s album is a dream for pop radio listeners and music snobs alike. Thoughtful lyrics with hidden references make the album feel like a musical scavenger hunt.
The title track alone mentions the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Harry Nilsson. “Candy Necklace” jumps genres, referencing hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. And these are just the first few songs. While her references aren’t necessarily sad, the memories she associates with them usually are.
In “The Grants,” she sings about yearning for the memory of “‘Rocky Mountain High,’ the way John Denver sings.”
Specific songs and artists can replicate the feeling of pivotal moments or periods of our lives, and Del Rey shares her most raw moments with listeners through her references.
“Put the Beatles on, light the candles, go back to bed,” Del Rey sings on “Let The Light In.”
Bittersweet and sentimental, her collaboration on the track with folk-rock artist Father John Misty is reminiscent of past relationships.
“Let The Light In” is just one example of how Del Rey blends other current artists’ sounds with her own. Typically enigmatic and packed with cultural references, Father John Misty’s own brand of sad-girl indie fuses well with Del Rey’s. The song tells the story of a couple who can’t stop going back to each other. The two singers’ voices soulfully compliment each other.
Despite a daunting hour and 17-minute run time, it is easy to look forward to the next song. Del Rey also uses her collaborative tracks as breaks between sad-pop anthems, with spoken-word tracks featuring Jon Batiste and Judah Smith. These tracks—and the album as a whole—prove that sweeping, complex instrumentals aren’t necessary for dramatic effect.
Most of the tracks feature simple piano melodies, barely penetrating Del Rey’s own voice. “Paris, Texas” is a playful waltz, while “Kintsugi” uses only a few simple repeated chords to complement the lyrics. The song feels lonely—in the spaces between instruments, Del Rey communicates loss and sorrow.
“I don’t trust myself with my heart / But I’ve had to let it break a little more / ‘Cause they say that’s what it’s for / That’s how the light shines in,” she sings.
Time and again, Del Rey’s best songs tend to also be her most gut-wrenching ones. This album is no exception, but the project as a whole means something more than each individual song. Every track is a piece of her personal musical history.